Milton Doyle didn’t score until there were only 34 seconds left in the game. Aundre Jackson didn’t score at all.
To Rambler fans that sounds like a nightmare, but to their chagrin it became reality.
The Loyola men’s basketball team lost to Southern Illinois University (SIU) 55-50 March 3 in a quarterfinal matchup of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament. The loss likely ended the Ramblers’ hopes for postseason glory and the perfect sendoff for Doyle, the only senior in the rotation.
Doyle, a first-team All-MVC selection — the first in Loyola men’s basketball history — had a peculiar night. The guard who averaged 15.5 points per game was held scoreless for all but the waning seconds of the game. But, it was not a bad game for Doyle. He had 10 rebounds, four assists and forced five turnovers. Doyle made an impact, just not the type fans expected.
The offense for the Ramblers flowed through junior guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer. The two combined for 28 points, 8-20 from the three point line. But, their individual performances were not enough. Loyola shot a mere 27 percent from the field, well below its near 50 percent season average. Jackson, who was a key piece in the Ramblers’ success this year, failed to record a point, and due to size matchups was overpowered by SIU’s Thik Bol. Jackson ended up only playing 13 minutes.
SIU dodged a bullet, as its night was far from stellar as well. The Salukis shot only 40 percent from the field. Senior guard Mike Rodriguez led the attack for SIU, with 16 points. The Salukis forced 20 turnovers, while committing just 14.
In a somber press conference, Richardson said he knew the Ramblers could have accomplished more this year, and said he was disappointed in how the season ended earlier than he expected.
“It hurts just because I know how special the team is,” said Richardson. “I think we deserve to be playing — going further, and that’s what we all wanted.That was our goal. We had big goals this year, and it just hurts to fall short.”
Richardson, with a tear in his eye, said he hurt especially for Doyle, considering everything Doyle had done for the team over the years.
“[I]f I had a vote, I would have voted [Doyle] for player of the year in the conference,” Richardson said. “He’s an incredible player. He makes everyone around him better, not just on offense, but on defense as well … [A]fter the game, I just told him I loved him … and I’m just honored to be his teammate.”
Head coach Porter Moser said he was upset about the outcome of the game, but optimistic about the future of his team. Doyle may be graduating, but he is the only impact player who will not return next fall, barring any transfers. Moser said Doyle’s contribution to the team and the program will never be forgotten.
“I see [Doyle’s impact] when I talk to recruits in the Chicago area, that it isn’t just a blowoff,” said Moser. “People are answering the phone … People know who Milton Doyle [is] … It’s created an effect where people look at Loyola now in the city. Think about it. Ten years without a Chicago kid before Milton. That’s a long time to be Loyola of Chicago and no Chicago kids with all the talent there. So he’s had a huge impact.”
Doyle may be graduating, but with the core of the team remaining, Moser said all signs point up for the team. A chance at postseason tournaments such as the College Basketball Invitational the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament may still be in the Ramblers’ future, but they would pale in comparison to what the team envisioned for itself this season.
The Ramblers’ season may have ended, but the culture around the program has clearly been changed into a culture of success — at least the effort towards it. Moser may have lost his best player, but that player helped plant a seed of success that has grown over the last four years, and likely will continue to grow for more.